The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

A Translation and Critical Edition, with Introduction and Commentary, by Franco Mormando Domenico Bernini, A critical translation with an introduction and commentary by Franco Mormando
  • Copyright: 2011
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 500 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03748-6
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03749-3
“This is the first English translation of Domenico Bernini’s important biography of his father and a splendid addition to the literature on the preeminent genius of the Roman Baroque. Not only does Mormando’s elegant translation make this primary source available to those who do not read Italian, but his accompanying commentary is illuminating and exhaustive, drawing as it does on nearly six hundred secondary sources. This is the book every student and admirer of Bernini has been waiting for.”
“With this fine volume, all students and scholars of Bernini finally have an essential new tool for seventeenth-century studies—the English translation of the biography of Bernini, which was published in 1713 by his son Domenico. This biography, which emends the better-known vita by Baldinucci, is the more trustworthy of the two with regard to facts and certainly the more informative. No library, no scholar, and no undergraduate in Baroque art can be without Franco Mormando’s translation. His introduction and notes are packed with new information and original discoveries. Three loud cheers for Penn State University Press for bringing out a book previously available only in a hard-to-obtain facsimile of the original Italian text.”
“Applying his meticulous analysis of Domenico's Life of Gianlorenzo Bernini and drawing on the state of the art in scholarship on Bernini and artistic biography, Franco Mormando not only provides us with an accurate yet highly readable translation of Bernini's biography, but also substantially contributes to our understanding of the text and the myriad issues and themes involved in it. This book is an indispensable working instrument for all those working on Bernini, artistic biography, Baroque Rome, or early modern art theory.”
“Domenico Bernini’s biography of his father, Gian Lorenzo, is a remarkably important textual document. Thanks to Franco Mormando, we now have the definitive English translation we have long been waiting for—a book that will certainly be a welcome addition to the library of any student or scholar of early modern Italian art. Mormando’s volume presents an elegant, accurate, and highly readable translation of the text—one that captures the essence and spirit of the original Italian, with respect to the nuances and subtlety of language and terminology. The volume also includes a learned and exhaustive introduction, which frames the biography both historically and critically, and an equally learned and extraordinarily helpful critical commentary, which illuminates the text in myriad ways.”
“This book immediately becomes an indispensable resource for Bernini studies.”
The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini translates three invaluable biographical texts on Bernini, complementing them with insightful and extensive explanatory notes. . . . [This book is an] essential [contribution] to Bernini studies, and because of [it], we know Bernini better.”
“This new critical edition, the product of 10 years of research, effectively puts the lie to much of Domenico’s hyperbolic tale of genius, virtue and piety. Crucially, Mormando, a professor of Italian at Boston College, also puts that earlier work into context and with impressive finesse explains the literary conventions and family circumstances underlying Domenico’s filial tribute. . . . [This] book will be of special interest to Bernini scholars. Yet serious art aficionados will also find it accessible, thanks less to Domenico’s florid prose than to Mormando’s helpful introductory essays and vivid commentary.”
“Franco Mormando’s translation of Bernini’s life by his son Domenico is the first in English of Domenico’s text which, until recent years, had been considered biased and neither as credible nor as useful to scholars as Baldinucci’s 1682 Life of Bernini or Chantelou’s observations in his Journal. However Mormando makes a convincing case for Domenico’s biography to be taken much more seriously, seeking to prove that a first version may have been written by him many years earlier than the publication date of 1713, so predating Baldinucci’s biography, until now thought to be the first.”

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), sculptor, architect, painter, and playwright, was the most influential artist of seventeenth-century Rome and, indeed, one of the leading creative forces in European art for most of that century. He is universally recognized as one of the creators of the vastly popular Roman Baroque style, which was quickly disseminated throughout all of Europe. His influence lasted well beyond his death, and the popularity of his numerous works—fountains, statues, churches, and public squares—is today as great as it was during his own lifetime, if not more so. Domenico Bernini (1657–1723) was the artist’s youngest child. Domenico’s full-length biography of his famous father represents one of the most important and most intimate primary sources for the artist’s life and work.

In this edition, Franco Mormando presents the first critical translation in any language of the complete Italian text, together with annotated translations of two other significant but brief biographical sketches. Mormando provides a lengthy Introduction that closely examines the author and his career, his editorial agenda and critical reception, Baroque biography as a literary genre, the other extant primary sources, and the artistic vocabulary of early modern Europe, among other relevant topics. Extensive commentary accompanies and illuminates the text from a multiplicity of historical, linguistic, and cultural perspectives. This edition is, in effect, a one-volume encyclopedia on the artist’s life and work. As such, it stands alone within the immense bibliography of Bernini scholarship.

Franco Mormando is Associate Professor of Italian at Boston College.



A Note on the Commentary, Sources, Translations, Abbreviations, and Currency

Introduction: The Anatomy of Baroque Biography: Domenico Bernini’s Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Domenico Bernini, The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Appendix 1: Pietro Filippo Bernini (attrib.), The Vita Brevis of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Appendix 2: Jean Donneau de Visé, “Éloge du Cavalier Bernin,” Le Mercure Galant, Paris, January 1681




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